AN INSIGHT INTO THE LIVES OF WOMEN BEHIND SECTION 377 JUDGMENT

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On 19 July 2019, lawyers Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju acclaimed their relationship as a couple. They came out together after the historical judgment of Supreme Court in 2018 decriminalized Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Menaka Guruswamy is a lawyer by profession. She is a Rhodes Scholar who has an LLM degree from Harvard Law School as well as a D.Phil from Oxford University. She is also a visiting faculty at several prestigious schools like Columbia Law School, Yale Law School, and New York School of Law. Arundhati Katju is also a lawyer by profession and a James Kent Scholar. She holds an LLM degree from Columbia.

Section 377 of IPC states “unnatural offenses” introduced by the British Rulers in 1862 which reads as:  Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 377 criminalized homosexuality till 2018 but after the verdict of the Supreme Court, the scenario has changed. The verdict of the SC on 6th September 2018 decriminalized Section 377 and allowed gay sex amongst adult in private. The Supreme Court also stated that adult gay sex is not a crime and it is a sexual orientation which is natural and people have no control over it.

On 19th July 2019, in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, they both admitted their relationship. They also stated that the victory was not just professional one but also a personal one.

When Zakaria asked about the judgment, Katju said that when Section 377 was finally repealed the things that happened after the judgment was kind of celebration for them and their parents, who had come down to the court to watch her and Guruswamy.

Guruswamy said that the 2013 loss was a loss as lawyers, as citizens and also a personal loss. Guruswamy contended that it felt bad to be a criminal who had to go back to a Court as a lawyer to argue other cases.

Guruswamy and Katju had also argued the matter in the Court in 2013 when the SC had held Section 377 of IPC as criminalized.

Katju said that it was difficult to digest that gay people were considered second class citizens in the Court where they were practicing as lawyers.

Guruswamy and Katju acclaimed their relationship as a couple after the verdict of SC on 6th September 2018. They were also named as one of the 100 most influential people of 2019 by TIME magazine.

The lawyers are not the first who come about their sexual orientation this year. Recently Indian sprinter and national champion in the women’s 100 meters event, Dutee Chand also came in front of the world as a gay, becoming India’s first openly queer female athlete.

Section 377 of the IPC verdict has given equal status to gays and LGBTQ community. Everyone has Right to Equality and is never to be judged on the basis of sexual orientation.

The couple hopes that the verdict of 2018 brings changes in India and in other countries that are anti-gay.

Chikita Malhotra

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